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88-Year-Old Calif. Man Allegedly Shoots Wife in Head After 70-Year Marriage

88-Year-Old Calif. Man Allegedly Shoots Wife in Head After 70-Year Marriage
Roy Charles Laird, 88, (AP Photo/Seal Beach Police Department)

SEAL BEACH, California (CBS/AP) A month before his 70th wedding anniversary, an 88-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder after police found his wife dead of a gunshot wound to the head in her bed at a Southern California nursing home Sunday, said police.

The couple's daughter told the Los Angeles Times the shooting was a "mercy killing" by Roy Charles Laird, who had long fed his wife as she declined and suffered from dementia.

Sgt. Steve Bowles said reports of gunshots came around noon at Country Villa Healthcare Center. Inside officials found 86-year-old Clara Laird dead of a single gunshot wound to the head. Authorities recovered a .38 caliber revolver from her husband who was sitting in a nearby chair, said Bowles.

"It was in his pocket," Bowles said and added that Roy Laird did not resist officers who arrested him.

The sergeant could not offer information on a possible motive or the health of the couple, nor would he disclose whether there had been any reported trouble between them.

The couple's 68-year-old daughter, Kathy Palmateer, told the Times that Roy Laird had insisted on helping dress and feed his wife when dementia set in.

Three months ago, he reluctantly agreed to check his wife into Country Villa after her health declined and she was no longer able to walk, sit up in a wheelchair, feed herself or recognized many of those around her.

"Her mind was gone," Palmateer told the Times as she waited outside the police station to see her father. "It was a mercy killing."

Roy Laird was being held at Seal Beach jail Sunday night.